Icelandic farm holidays are an ultimate getting away from it all type experience, and proving increasingly popular with foreign visitors, with the farmstay or agritourism industry here experiencing a big upsurge recently. For years the country was off the radar for tourism generally, but these days it most certainly is not and as it is very much a rural country, for those staying longer than a few days, farm holidays have become almost an integral part of the Iceland travel experience.
The country certainly holds a rare fascination for many people. Its sparse population; not much over three hundred thousand, its beautifully rugged, inhospitable landscapes, its tough climate and its splendid isolation from the rest of Europe leave many wondering how it survives at all, but survive it does, and very well.
Having suffered badly during the economic crisis of 2008, its traditionally self reliant people seem to have shaken off the after effects with true resilience. One obvious benefit of which, for foreigners, is that their post devaluation currency now makes it much cheaper to visit.
So, as mentioned before, it has been experiencing a tourism boom lately, and while most visitors do indeed come to see their quirky little capital Reykjavík those that explore its isolated rural areas are richly rewarded. To hike around volcanoes, hot springs, fjords and glaciers beneath its summer midnight sun is something uniquely magical, and in winter there is the enchanting spectacle of the northern lights.
Farmstays/farm holidays are popular here; there are many tiny farm communities and isolated farmhouses where you’ll find the people friendly and hospitable towards the growing numbers of outsiders who come their way, and being surrounded by such almost mystical landscapes adds an extra dimension to the Icelandic farm holiday experience. Horse riding is popular on farm stays here too, and you might well get a chance to ride Iceland’s most iconic animal, the pony-like, famously long maned, Icelandic Horse.
Even quite near Reykjavík you can find yourself in some splendidly isolated settings, with lava fields and some spectacular waterfalls around the ice caps of the still active volcanoes of Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull to the south of the capital. The hot springs of Landmannalaugar are a popular diversion from the capital too, as is the captivating Blue Lagoon and the Westmann islands whose rough, rocky coastline is filled with North Atlantic birdlife.
Þingvellir (Thingvellir) National Park, just east of Reykjavik, might be considered a must see in Iceland, it is a spectacular theater of ancient volcanoes and craggy lava formed landscapes sitting around a rift valley where the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates meet. It is also the site of Iceland’s first parliament which ruled from here for almost 800 years, from the 10th to the 18th century, and so for Icelandic people it is an incredibly important place both culturally and historically.
This park is along the touristic, so called, Golden Circle Route which has lots more spectacular landscapes, and all of it quite near to Reykjavik. At its far eastern edge there is the spectacular Gulfoss waterfall, another very popular attraction, and so too are the nearby Geysir hot springs, where Strokkur Geyser famously erupts every 10 to 12 minutes.
It is a stunningly beautiful route, and we’d highly recommend hiring a car for it. Though many people do it as a day trip from the capital, it also really deserves at least one night’s stay along the way.
Much of the north west of the country is made up of surprisingly flat, rolling farm land that seems quite distinct but always with a backdrop of spectacular mountains in the near distance. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a worthy diversion in the north west, having some of Iceland’s most evocative scenery; a place of volcanoes, rocky cliffs and small villages guarding over the wild Atlantic below.
Moving back along the roof of Iceland, towards the northeast you’ll pass by some gorgeously barren, windswept lands, and the huge Skagafjörður Bay, which is a popular place for boat trips and bird and whale watching. Moving on further you’ll come to Eyjafjörður, Iceland’s longest fjord and the town of Akureyri, with a population of around 15,000, the country’s second largest after Reykjavík.
East from there takes you over towards the East Fjords another magnificent sight, and between there and Akureyri you have detours around the Reykjadalur Valley and the lava-covered Ódáðahraun plains which are full of glaciers, rivers and underground springs. Mývatn lake about an hour from Akureyri, and its nearby geothermal springs, are also popular destinations with tourists, both local and foreign.